Dear Peaceful Inhabitants of an Ancient Island,
There are several things you should know about the hordes of young Australians visiting you this week who are collectively known as “Schoolies”.
The first thing is, some of them actually own shirts. Sure, they haven’t worn them much this week, but they do own them.
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If there had been a sorting hat at my high school it would have asked two questions: Have you seen all six Star Wars films and have you ever been pashed.
Depending on which question got a “yes”, the wearer would be ushered to the geeks or the cool crowd. If they had a firm understanding of what a sorting hat actually was, they’d go direct to the geeks.
I was quick work for the hat. I’d seen every Star Wars film five times and wore a Darth Maul t-shirt to the opening of The Phantom Menace. Thankfully no need for the second question.
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The last few weeks have seen the annual surge of stories talking about the dangers facing young adults celebrating the end of their compulsory schooling.
Most of the headlines have been taken up with reports on the tragic fatal electrocution of a young man in Bali. However, coming close behind have been a glut of current affairs pieces, garnished with a menacing techno soundtrack, detailing the many and varied ways Australia’s sons and daughters can either have their lives ruined or cut short during Schoolies.
Predictably, parents across the nation have made public their fear and reluctance to allow their offspring to go let off a little steam, far away from the stress that has been their constant companion for the last couple of years.
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On cue, the league of self-appointed moral guardians is dutifully doing the rounds, making a lot of noise about Schoolies and the imminent decay of Good Society it will precipitate. They make arbitrary claims about what constitutes “fun” and play upon the tired moral panics over young girls, binge drinking and indiscriminate sex.
Why, they ask, must school-leavers celebrate the end of mandatory education by congregating near beaches and getting plastered? And why hasn’t someone – presumably the government – put a stop to all this and offered some more wholesome, healthier alternative for kids to let off steam?
Well, there are plenty of alternatives, none of them popular. Schoolies is a naturally developing phenomenon and nobody is forced to participate. Year after year, thousands of friendship groups independently make the decision to head north, or south as the case may be, and enjoy being away from home, with lots of booze and lots of sex.
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It says a lot about Australia’s binge-drinking culture that an event such as Schoolies Week - where drunken violence, date rape and death by misadventure is relatively commonplace – is regarded as a routine rite of passage for young people who in most cases aren’t even old enough to drink legally.
I still have about eight years up my sleeve but as a parent I am dreading the day when my son or, especially, daughter comes to me and says: “Dad, can I go to Schoolies?”
It is a nightmarish scenario for parents. You want to strike a balance between making sure your kids are safe, but not wanting to keep them so swaddled in cotton wool that they become resentful and maladjusted introverts who miss the chance to socialise and have some fun at a landmark moment in their lives.
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Few Australians navigate their teen years without heaving their guts up after a massive drinking binge. With Schoolies Week almost upon us, the focus will no doubt turn to dangerous levels of alcohol consumption in youngsters.
I hardly touch the stuff now but as a teenager, mainly to fit in with my friends, I smuggled cheap wine cask bladders into pubs and guzzled them.
The aftermath was never pretty, and luckily it didn’t take long for me to realise blacking out and throwing up were not much fun. I’ve basically been a teetotaller since my early 20s.
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Don’t you just hate it when you forget to reinforce your beachfront apartment with barb-wire fencing?
Yep, it’s that time of the year again when “well-to-do” grown ups quietly mutter under their breaths that every 16-year-old in Surfers Paradise should be tasered in the face. Cars explode and cinder blocks are thrown through Harvey Norman windows as teenagers in leather jackets have sex on the street while homeless guys wave “end is nigh” signs around.
Rubber bullets zoom through the air and Wicked vans are rolled as the Prime Minister is taken by Blackhawk to an underground security facility at Alice Springs. I’m talking (of course) about Schoolies.
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